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Riverdale Welcomes Chair of Israeli Commission On Hamas Crimes Against Women and Children

Dr. Cochav Elkayam-Levy, chair of the ‘Civil Commission on October 7 Crimes by Hamas Against Women and Children,’ speaking in Riverdale.

On Tuesday December 5, the Riverdale community welcomed Dr. Cochav Elkayam-Levy, chair of the “Civil Commission on October 7 Crimes by Hamas Against Women and Children,” who presented “Break the Silence: Raising the Voices of Israeli Women and Girls,” hosted by Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale (CSAIR).

Having just returned from the Hartman Institute’s Rabbinic Mission, CSAIR Rabbi Barry Dov Katz opened, “Every conversation I had was about October 7 even if, on the surface, it was about something else. The brutal murder and particularly attacks on and rape of women haunt the country. The silence of the world is palpable. You can hear it loudly in Israel right now.” Katz described the event’s goals, “to listen to victims’ and survivors’ stories of gender-based violence and then share with our networks, family, friends, organizations, elected officials and the international community.”

Elkayam-Levy began, “I didn’t realize how empowering it would be meeting Jewish communities outside Israel. We’re not alone. I didn’t realize how much the Jewish communities I’m meeting are grieving with us. Everybody says Israel is traumatized, but millions of Jews around the world are also traumatized.”

Elkayam-Levy portrayed her life prior to October 7, working towards equal society in Israel and globally. Since October 7, she chairs the civil commission. “I never imagined I would be speaking about crimes against humanity, committed in Israel, against our communities, in such magnitude. On October 7, we saw the most heinous crimes one can imagine.

“We understood these crimes are something the international community should quickly respond to. We’re amazed, or deeply surprised. Colleagues either ignoring and keeping silent about what happened or releasing statements to contextualize the crimes. It’s shocking.”

Elkayam-Levy admitted she very naively thought if she wrote to the international community on what happened in Israel, analyzing the violation of international law, she would get a response.

“I got 160 law professors around the world signing this letter. They are former UN members, the former head of the UN Human Rights Committee and prominent figures. The document was presented to President Biden and every UN agency.”

Elkayam-Levy also sent a civil petition signed by thousands around Israel and the world, asking the UN not to ignore what happened, to condemn the crimes. “I found myself saying it’s as if the seventh of October disappeared from time itself.

“Everybody was asking me, why do you think they’re not responding? I’ve never given an excuse because there’s no excuse. As time passed, we started to realize that they’re not even responding to our emails. I lost hope. We cannot say there isn’t a deeper sentiment to this silence. There’s no other explanation to the silence except the demonization of Jews, of Israelis.”

Elkayam-Levy further explained, “They’re not actually keeping silent. They have reported on Gaza and had an aggressive campaign against Israel. The silence fueled hatred campaigns against Jews and anti-Semitic campaigns against us.

“When they keep silent, they confuse the entire system. If they are not saying anything then probably nothing happened. The most troubling thing I am seeing is the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women says that the seventh of October really happened to the Palestinians, changing the narrative in a very twisted way, not only betraying us as Israelis. They are betraying humanity and everything we worked on over the past few decades.”

Elkayam-Levy described her commission’s two important missions: to guide Israeli authorities on how to collect evidence and investigate sexual crimes of such magnitude, and compile a video and image archive under international standards.

“We document every piece of information received. The team is exposed to the most difficult information day and night.” Elkayam-Levy noted collecting this information “is not only to get victims’ voices and stories heard. I want them to be part of our paths to reshape the international system, radically transforming ways we think about international law and crimes. It’s not enough for stories to be heard. They have to be a huge part, perhaps, in a new chapter in our thinking of the international system.”

Elkayam-Levy is a law professor at Reichman University, Davis Institute for International Relations at Hebrew University. She is also the founder and head of the Dvora Institute for Gender and Sustainable Studies.


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